I’ve read that there’s two ways of approaching sourdough. One is to take a careful, professional, scientific approach – and the other is to trust to instinct and hope for the best! I’m very much in the latter category, and I’ve been baking sourdough bread for about half a year now, ever since I worked out how to keep a starter without it going hyper-acidic or mouldy (hint: don’t seal it when not refrigerated, and change the container regularly). The culture (named Aethelbread – I was watching Last Kingdom at the time) is now properly mature and I’ve been getting some great loaves out of it.
However, if there’s one thing that always puts me off bread-baking, it’s the act of kneading it – especially when the dough is sticky. I don’t know if it’s because I tend to use a mix of wholemeal and white flour, or whether it’s just a lack of skill, but I’ve always found it difficult to get my bread doughs to the window-pane stage. However, scanning baking blogs for a new solution, I recently stumbled upon the autolyse technique. It’s deceptively simple – just add the flour and water together before baking, and leave them to stand for a few hours for mixing in the starter and other ingredients. The result is a dough that’s so much easier to knead – and it seems to improve the texture of the end product as well!
NB – if you’re wondering why it’s so round, it’s because I messed up the shaping slightly so had to cook it a casserole dish. Still tasty though!